Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Ode to You My Best Friend...

If you have never had a dog or fail to understand the love a person can have for a dog, then this will probably be lost on you. Last night at 10:47 pm (Tuesday, March 16, 2010) I received a call from my vet notifying that my 13-year old Daschsund Cobi had passed away. While I had done my best to prepare for this day/night -- sometimes nothing you can do can truly ready you for reality. As I talked, cried and reminisced with Summer and my Mom, I woke up this morning with a yearning to write. It's been a while and I planned to tell you about my Olympic experience, but the need for me to document some of what I'm feeling has hit me like a baseball bat to the gut (sorry, that's probably the only sports reference you'll get here). This is a raw emotional journey into my heart and soul. Real feelings, real memories, real love. With tears pouring down my cheek and going through Puffs like they are going out of style, this one is for you Cobi Jones Jacobs.

However trite it might sound, it feels like yesterday that my friend Bill and I went to a tiny daschsund farm outside of Athens to figure out which of their puppies were going to be mine. I remember having two choices. One red dog with a deformed tail (at a discounted price) or a shy black-and-tan dog who could not have been cuter. I had one simple test to determine which dog I would choose. I put them both on the ground to see what they would do. The dog with the deformed tail ran around in circles and yapped. The black and tan dog walked right up to me as if to say, "what the hell were you waiting for dad?" Driving home, my friend Bill could literally fit Cobi into the palm of his hand. I was so excited to finally have my own dog.

I was raised in a home with dogs and much like my parents, believed dogs were a part of the family. Not only were our dog's the worst trained dogs in the world, but they got the best table scraps in the business. My Mom and Dad used to drive to Atlantic City with our dog Mischief, and when they crossed over the bridge they would stop at Richmond's Ice Cream and get three ice cream cones. My Dad believed Mischief was part of the family, so why shouldn't he get his own ice cream cone? Guess the apple does not fall far from the tree.

That being said, my parents initially were not thrilled with my idea to get a dog. "Wait until you get a house" they suggested. But this was my college graduation money and this is what I wanted to do with it. I will never forget the first time my father met my dog. Cobi was about 5 months old and at the time, my Dad didn't believe I was capable of having a dog. He thought I made a terrible decision. When we went to visit a cousin in Augusta we all took turns sitting outside with Cobi. I'll never forget walking out and seeing Cobi proudly sitting in my dad's lap; my dad later admitted how proud of me he was and how surprised he was that I did such a good job raising this dog (for those of you know me, you can imagine how this felt).

Cobi was a dichotomy. From the early years of living w/Andy, Darrell, Cary, Wikoff, Wayne and others, he definitely was a protector of the home. Sweet as could be once he decided he liked you, but an ankle biter to some strangers (and a few friends). Outside of the home, he was one of those dogs people would stop to ask about. It was not uncommon for people to ask if I was planning on breeding him or if they could pet him -- just looking at him prancing around made people stop and say "aw" -- especially when he did it with a full-sized tennis ball in his mouth.

I have faced some obstacles and outside of my family there was ALWAYS one constant. An 11-lb daschsund ready to walk any distance required, play fetch for as long as it took, take a drive (as long as he could put down the window -yes he did that himself) or happily sit on my lap or kiss my face. I recall one difficult period when I was returning to Atlanta after some needed time away and my Mom said, "well at least you are headed back to Atlanta." My exact response, "Thank G-d I have Cobi." I cannot underscore the complete and utter unconditional love that I have for that dog and that I believe he had in return for me. I never really understood what that love was like, until I had it for Cobi (and then Summer "decided" it was time she walk in my life and take it to a whole new level). It's an incredibly fulfilling feeling -- yet today I mourn my best friend.

Cobi was trained to sleep in the bed, and outside of sleeping on a pile of laundry, I'm convinced there was nowhere he would rather be. Last night and this morning I could feel him sleeping next to me, however when I woke up and walked downstairs I have only the memories. And while those memories will be everlasting today a new chapter begins.

There are many memories I will take with me. I won't ever forget the time, as a 1 year old, he jumped out of my moving Ford Explorer. A Ford Explorer -- do you know how high that is? I was so sure I had ran over him or he had broken his legs. But, when I stopped the car and ran over to him he was waiting for me under a tree. I remember when Cobi met my nephew Jake for the first time nine years ago, and he covered Jake's face with kisses while Jake laughed and pulled Cobi's ears. The dog had a stomach of steel. If you left your food unattended it was gone. Burritos, pizza, vegetables - nothing was off limits. However, he loved peanut butter, carrots and had an unquenchable desire for mints. Not sure if this is due to my own obsession with fresh breath, but he would routinely eat packs of gum. Cobi would regularly pull my pants off the hanger and rummage through my pockets for mints and gum. One time after he thought I left, I came back into my room to find a daschsund standing on his hind legs with his head in my pants pockets still on the hanger. When I said his name, he froze as if he thought, "if I freeze, dad will never see me." I'm left starring at this little dog on his hind legs with his head stuck in my pockets stiff as a statue.

One of my favorite memories was when Cobi had recovered from one of his illnesses (the people at his vet ALL knew him by his name as the vet incredulously said to me yesterday, he's on his fourth record? Wow!). I was watching TV and he was standing next to a 2 1/2 foot table in front of my couch. I look over at him and on a vertical leap he jumped up onto the table. I was so startled that I laughed out loud and said, "what the hell are you doing?" I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. He just looked at me as if to say, "I ain't done yet, Dad." Mind you this was an 11-12 year old daschsund.

For those of you who don't believe in anything or even the power of dogs, I present to you this final piece of evidence. As Cobi's health descended over the last couple days, I was trying my best to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. His stomach was upset, he couldn't control his bowels and he had labored breathing on top of his persistent coughing. I thought this could be the end. When I took him to the vet, they checked everything, gave him an ultrasound and said his organs all looked good and his heart was strong. They figured he had pneumonia (for a second time) and they would treat it by putting him in an oxygen chamber and pumping him with steroids. I felt shocked and relieved. This dog had an iron will. Around dinner time, I got a call from the vet who said that Cobi had not responded to the treatment as well as she hoped and she suggested we put him on an IV, which would cost more money that I didn't have. The expenses were mounting and I was left with a decision that few pet owners should face, but one that is all too common. Do I continue to shell out money I don't have for a dog who I love, though I'm unsure if he would make a full recovery, or how much longer he can go? This decision tortured me. What if he had another year or two or three? What would be enough? This dog loved to defy odds, but what if he only lived another few months and most importantly would he enjoy the same quality of life he had experienced up until now. As I talked with Summer, my Mom and my friend Danny over this decision it became tougher. I decided to hold-off on the IV's, continue with the original treatment the vet initially recommended for the night and let nature take it's course. I would decide on the IV's in the morning, though my gut feeling was that nature would give me the answer I needed.

And in his final act of companionship, Cobi decided he would make the decision easy for me.

Almost 13 years to the day that I picked him up from that little daschsund farm outside of Athens, I got the call last night that he had passed away in his sleep. Want a weird twist of fate? I named Cobi after my favorite soccer player Cobi Jones who wore number 13. Cobi Jacobs lived to be 13.

I simply wanted somewhere I could document something so real and raw as it was happening. Something I could refer to from time-to-time, and eventually I will smile and laugh at these memories. I take solace in the fact that he did not suffer too much and that he's resting somewhere up in doggie heaven (probably in a pile of my laundry, surrounded by carrots, an unlimited supply of Kroger peanut butter and a giant bag of mints).

My friend Michael Wikoff once told me that he could never love another dog the way that he loved his dog Charlotte. There will be other dogs, but none will ever be loved like the way he loved her, and more than ever I understand that feeling.

Whether it's a parent, a child, a family member, a significant other or a pet I find death to be an ironic and sad process of life. Unfortunately, it often takes losing someone or something you love to appreciate all that you have. Make sure that whatever it is that you love, to love it just a little bit more each day than you did the day prior; because that which we love is what keeps us alive.


  1. Ross,

    I am truly sad to hear of this. Cobi was a special dog and I know how much a part of you he was. I'm glad I got to meet him and spend some time with him. Seeing you with Cobi was one of my deciding factors in getting Bella. My thoughts are with you.

  2. Ross,

    I'm really sorry for your loss. That was a heartfelt tribute. Cobi was your partner in crime, jog buddy, and the rascal vying for attention when you were on the phone. Be comforted with the knowledge that you always gave him your best, and he gave you lasting friendship and good memories.


  3. the sister-in-lawMarch 17, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    What a marvelous tribute to a marvelous little dog. The first time I visited Atlanta and saw you and Cobi together, I marveled at the relationship the two of you had. There was no doubt that you and Cobi were best friends and shared that "special bond". Cobi couldn't have hoped for a better dad. A lucky dog, a lucky guy and a lot of love. Yep, that's the way it should be.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you.


  4. Thank you all very much for the kind words and thoughts. I miss that little guy even more than I thought I would but I think its kind of cool that he decided, on his own terms, that it was time to move on. I won't ever, ever forget the memories and hearing everyone's stories warms me. Thanks all.

  5. Ross, what a beautiful eulogy. It made me shed some tears. I now have a dog (five months old), and I can only imagine how you feel.

    Sorry for the loss, buddy!

    Stephanie Sparks Donlan

  6. Ross,
    The loss of a love one is never easy and the heart tries to understand. Most people think the relationship of a love one is over but I believe that is not true because although things have changed that you will always have that heart felt feeling between Cobi and you and the wonderful love that was shared between both of you.
    God will always look after Cobi, and Cobi will aleays look after you.
    Love always,
    Stanman & "Yo Don"

  7. RJ,
    So sorry to hear about Cobi. You did a wonderful job describing the joys of being a father of a dog brings. Even though Cobi is gone, you will always have those great memories to reflect on. I know the days are winding down for my Tyson and I can hardly bear to to think about his final days and the decisions I will need to make. Hang in there, kid.